Testing presidential and vice presidential candidates’ commitment to forest conservation

by: Eko Prasetyo

As the lifeblood of society and biodiversity, forests play a critical role as oxygen producers and carbon sinks that stabilise the Earth’s climate.

The Global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum, features data that consistently highlights environmental issues as both short- and long-term risks over the past three years, with direct links to forest issues such as forest destruction and fires.

With the 2024 General Election just days away, we must understand how the presidential and vice presidential candidates view the importance of forests.

Simply put, the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ commitment to forest conservation can be scrutinised through their vision and mission documents. The aim is to ensure that forests are not just targets for exploitation.

The results show that each candidate pair – Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar, Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka, and Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD – demonstrated potential strengths and weaknesses regarding forest conservation.

Evaluating candidate commitments

In general, all candidates’ vision and mission statements show attention to forests and related issues, either explicitly or implicitly. The analysis of this commitment is based on several keywords, such as “Forest”, “Environment”, “Climate Crisis”, “Ecology”, and “Biodiversity”.

Analysis of keywords related to forests shows that Anies-Muhaimin dominates in frequency compared to other pairs, where Anis-Muhaimin mentioned the word “Forest” 17 times, “Environment” 15 times, “Climate Crisis” 13 times, “Ecology” 10 times, and “Biodiversity” 8 times.

Meanwhile, the Prabowo-Gibran pair mentioned the word “Forest” 11 times, “Environment” 3 times, “Climate Crisis” 4 times, “Ecology” 1 time, and “Biodiversity” 1 time.

On the other hand, the Ganjar-Mahfud pair mentioned the word “Forest” 7 times, “Environment” 10 times, “Climate Crisis” 5 times, “Ecology” 1 time, and “Biodiversity” 1 time.

Substantially, both Anies-Muhaimin and Ganjar-Mahfud show a more explicit and more focused mention of forests. Anies-Muhaimin discusses forests within the framework of ecological justice, while Ganjar-Mahfud emphasizes the issue of a sustainable environment and green economy.

Anies-Muhaimin’s mission to achieve “ecological justice” involves sub-missions related to forests, environmental governance, renewable energy, green economy, climate change adaptation, biodiversity, disaster resilience, and stakeholder collaboration. The vision and mission documents also emphasise an important phrase in environmental management, namely “intergenerational justice”.

The pair also includes quantitative targets, such as an increase in the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) within the 73-75 range. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be an increase in the value of the land cover index specifically related to forests. This index measures river water quality, air quality and forest cover across all provinces in Indonesia.

Ganjar-Mahfud’s six missions related to the environment have relevance to forests, covering issues of sustainable environment, green economy, and blue economy. One of its derivatives includes forest-related programs, ranging from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, forest harmonization, sustainable environmental management, climate change adaptation, to climate-aware villages.

In contrast, Prabowo-Gibran includes environmental aspects in missions 2 and 8. Although mentioned in two missions, the mission statement of candidate pair 02 has a fairly broad scope, including defense, national security, national independence, and harmonious life with the environment.

Prabowo-Gibran views forests as part of the food self-sufficiency sub-category. However, the pair’s mission 8 does not clearly touch on how the harmonization of the natural environment is related to forests, only mentioning intercropping farming methods to revitalize damaged forests in the food self-sufficiency sub-mission.

Presenting the risks

Although each candidate pair expressed concern for forests, this does not mean that the future of forests is without risk. At least, Indonesia faces two potential high risks related to forest sustainability:

Food security issues

Today, forests are strongly linked to food security issues, especially with the narrative of food estates or mass food production in an area.

However, the implementation of food estates faces challenges, even though forests have already been encroached upon. Anies-Muhaimin and Ganjar-Mahfud both do not mention food estate in their vision and mission documents, while Prabowo-Gibran firmly plans to continue President Joko Widodo’s program, with a target of four million hectares by 2029.

Prabowo-Gibran also details plans to revitalize forests and land into productive agricultural areas. This condition requires special attention if the pair is elected, as massive forest clearing that fails to increase food production not only creates food insecurity, but also increases the risk of climate crises such as floods, forest fires and droughts.

Development of the Capital City of Nusantara (IKN)

Another challenge lies in the area of development, which often conflicts with forest sustainability. For example, the government through the Authority of the Capital City of Nusantara (OIKN) has started development with the concept of Forest City in Kalimantan.

Although this concept at first glance guarantees the existence of forests in the IKN area, continuous and ongoing monitoring is needed to ensure its alignment with the original idea. Public attention to the development of IKN is also important, as its implementation poses potential risks to forest destruction in locations surrounding IKN.

The Prabowo-Gibran and Ganjar-Mahfud pairs expressed commitment to continue the development of IKN, while only the Anies-Muhaimin pair promised to review this megaproject.

Anies-Muhaimin’s development outlook is more inclined towards building other cities on par with Jakarta. However, this development direction also requires strong planning to ensure forest conservation in these other cities.

Maintaining candidate commitment

In general, candidates’ commitment to forests can be seen in their various vision and mission documents. They no longer see forests only as exploitable resources.

In line with this, Candidates 01 explicitly wrote about “incentives for forest guards” to value what has been invaluable. Candidates 02 shows a strong link between forests and food security through agroforestry. Meanwhile, Candidates 03 carries a narrative of harmonization and sustainability.

However, it is important to see how the candidates implement these views if they are elected. Whoever becomes president and vice president will have to ensure the preservation of Indonesia’s remaining forests through science-based policies.

Like this article? share it

More Post

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles